By Jann Wiswall
How about this idea? Invent a better windmill that provides an exponentially more cost-effective and efficient way to harness renewable energy, produce lots of the wind turbines using green technology, commit to manufacturing them in your own backyard using the local workforce, rely only on local investors and sales — not government subsidies, grants or tax abatements from Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) — to fund production and expansion, and pour the profits back into the community.
This is the mission of Kean Wind Turbines, a company born from a great idea based on solid Newtonian physics, precise mathematical science and logic. And, thanks to inventor Kean Stimm, the backyard is Western New York — specifically Erie and Cattaraugus counties.
Stimm expects that the new turbine — whose pre-production prototype will be tested for the first time in June (the experimental model has been tested, tweaked and retested over the course of several years) — “will make traditional three-blade wind turbines obsolete.”
According to Stimm, the Kean turbine has “a set of curved blades mounted on a central rotatable hub,” all of which is enclosed in a fiberglass housing. Three sizes of turbines will be produced — large (25’ in diameter), medium (15’) and small (10’) — all of which can be mounted on pedestals that reach just above the treetops, or on rooftops. This compares to traditional turbines whose blades are 80’ to 200’ in diameter and typically are mounted on towering, 150’ pedestals.
Size aside, the biggest difference is in efficiency. Traditional turbines capture only 4 percent of the air mass. The rest goes to waste because it is lost between the blades. With the Kean turbine, 95–100 percent of the wind energy is captured and, according to the company website, “testing has shown that it converts 40 % of the kinetic energy from the wind to useful electricity — far surpassing efficiency levels of current windmills.”
Traditional turbines also create noise pollution as the blades “slap” the air and a “shadow flicker” effect, which is caused by the blades creating a strobe-like effect when the sun shines directly behind them. This shadow flicker can disrupt nearby television reception and has reportedly caused some stress disorders among residents living nearby. Traditional turbines also have a habit of killing birds. The Kean turbine has none of these disadvantages and also has the advantage of being a relatively simple and efficient design to produce and maintain, using only 75 parts (excluding fasteners) compared to traditional turbines, which have some 8,000 parts.
Assuming testing of the prototype is successful (and Stimm confidently predicts that it will be), production can begin as early as this fall in the new assembly plant in Ashford, Cattaraugus County. The plant will, of course, be powered and heated entirely by two of the large turbines. And, Stimm expects that those two “turbines also will provide enough power to produce the aluminum” used in the devices.
As for the Western New York location, Stimm is more than committed. In addition to the assembly plant in Ashford, the company will have offices, production and showroom space in Springville and another presence in the home office in Williamsville. All initial investors in the company were required to be primary residents of Western New York. All employees (as many as 250) will live in the region, and all will have an opportunity to own shares in the company. And all profits from licensing and royalties will come back to the region. The company is already licensed in 50 countries.
Plus, Stimm said, “we do not want to be a burden on the taxpayer,” so the company is not looking for government subsidies, nor is it asking area IDAs for sales tax abatements or other tax breaks.
“Traditional companies are worried about us,” Stimm said. Most are highly subsidized or reliant on grants. “We never want to be in that situation, nor do we plan to have any debt.”
As the company’s mission statement says, the company “was founded with the conviction that we must take personal responsibility for finding solutions to today’s energy and economic crises and that this work is best done locally in our own communities.”
Stimm believes that the company can vastly improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the wind energy industry and help improve the local economy. He also believes his wind turbines could eventually play a part in changing the face of energy production worldwide by reducing reliance on fossil fuels and making energy more affordable.
“It’s an incredible jump forward,” he said.
For more information, visit www.keanwindturbines.com.